When I was a graphic design student, I dreamed of becoming an Art Director. I loved the title and I loved what it represented in my mind... Imagine that! Lead the creative decisions and process? For a control freak like me, it sounded perfect! ;)
When I started Mute, I was quite self-promoted Art Director, because we needed to quickly inspire confidence to our clients and prospectives. Fortunately, years have passed and I realised that it wasn't a bad choice!
So what is an Art Director?
An Art Director is a person able to immediately create a strong visual universe based on his understanding of the client brief. To do that, he/she needs cultural references as well as technical knowledge. He/she also has to provide constructive criticism and know how to stimulate a creative team without necessarily retaking control on them.
“Creativity is contagious, pass it on” – Albert Einstein
What is a typical day?
The coolest part of the job is that there is no average day! Because its very essence is to always renew yourself! Every morning, you clear up your mind to be focus on a new project or on a new way to see a work in progress. But I do have some rituals: feed myself with daily inspirations (Instagram, Behance and Pinterest are my favourites), check my calendar not to be overtaken by projects and try to make at least one thing for myself (a photo, an illustration, whatever...).
Which skills are required?
You have to know yourself very well, for the simple reason that you're always selling your vision, your mind, your "personal brand". Define why you are who you are: your main character traits, your strengths and weaknesses, your visual universe... It will help you becoming confident and persuasive.
"Directions are instructions given to explain how. Direction is a vision offered to explain why." – Simon Sinek
As an Art Director, you must be able to listen, understand, analyze, synthesize and rephrase. These are basics knowledge we all learn in school, but unfortunately, not everyone really acquired them! You also have to speak with clarity, enthusiasm, use the right word to be relevant and find the hidden meanings of your conversation partner. Remember that the most technical kick-ass graphic designer isn't necessarily a good Art Director.
You have to know and challenge your skills. You might be good at drawing, but not at photo-manipulation, you might have a good sense of composition but zero 3D skills... It doesn't matter if you succeed in creating cool stuff and more importantly, come up with global concepts design. But don't forget to challenge yourself, get out of your confort zone - I will talk to you about that soon - try new things and improve your technics. Trust me, it's not easy but it's worth it! ;)
So it might be a job full of stress and doubts - as I said here, designers can become neurotic ;) - but it truely is enriching, engaging and diversified.
For me, being an Art Director can be summarised in 3 words: innovate, stimulate and collaborate.
What about you? Are you currently an Art Director or do you want to become one? What is your vision of the job?
Hey! You want to go further:
Watch Building a Personal Brand by Jose Caballer, Chris Do and Roberto Blake
Watch The 6 Characteristics of Truly Creative People by Tina Seelig
Read What Makes a Great Creative Leader
Photo: A simple way to imagine an Art Director :)